How Can Friends and Family Support a Loved One with Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not properly produce or use insulin to control blood sugar levels. As a result of this imbalance, people with diabetes are at risk for serious complications such as heart disease, stroke and kidney failure if left untreated. The good news is that with proper management, individuals can live long and healthy lives.

Being diagnosed with diabetes can be overwhelming, and many people don't know what steps to take or how they can get the right support. As a friend or family member, you'll want to do everything you can to make sure your loved one is getting the best care possible, but sometimes it can be hard to know where to start.

Let's take a look at the steps you can take to help your loved one feel listened to and supported in their diabetes journey.

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Offer Emotional Support for Diabetic Friends

Living with a long-term health condition can make it especially difficult to feel in control of our mental health at times. This can manifest itself in a number of different ways, but it is common for diabetics to experience symptoms of diabetes burnout, when the constant stress involved with treating the condition becomes overwhelming. When this happens, they can stop caring for themselves as they usually would, which can make symptoms (and their overall quality of life) worse.

As a friend or family member, often the most useful thing you can do is just to listen. Allow them to vent their feelings and frustrations, without feeling like you need to offer any advice. Just knowing someone is willing to listen can go a long way in supporting someone's mental wellbeing. If they are looking for more tangible advice and support, you could also encourage them to speak to a healthcare professional, who will be better equipped to provide suggestions on improving their mental wellbeing.

A blister pack, two pill bottles, a glucometer and two insulin pens appear on orange background.

Educate Yourself so you Can Help Empower Your Loved Ones

Taking time to understand diabetes is really important. Putting in the effort to understand some of the language around the condition will show that you want to acknowledge and respect their diagnosis. It can also be helpful if they ever ask you to attend any medical appointments with them.

Sometimes, diabetics are also living with another disability or condition, which can be made worse by the symptoms of diabetes. Understanding both the primary and secondary conditions, and how they affect your loved one, will leave you more able to provide the necessary support.

Once you've done your research, speak to your loved one and let them tell you how it affects them personally—whilst you can read about typical symptoms and side effects, there's only one person who can tell you how it really makes them feel. They will be best-placed to tell you how specifically you can help to improve their quality of life. Don't guess or assume the best ways to help your friend or family member—educate yourself by listening to their specific wants and needs.

Cook Suitable Diabetes-Friendly Food

Eating can easily become a bit of a chore when you have diabetes, since it's important to be aware of what is in each dish. Some people with diabetes particularly find it difficult to eat out at restaurants, which can make celebrating special occasions difficult.

Take the time to understand which foods your loved one can have, and ensure you respect their needs when they come to your home, by only offering items on their safe list. If they find it hard to go to restaurants, make sure you still cook something special with them at home—they'll appreciate the effort.

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